I’m trying to catch something. An unfortunate minnow is skewered on to the surgical finite tip, its body wriggles in protest by doing what nature gave it to do: fight for flight (or to swim in this case) for survival. This is the perfect lure for the most hungry, the most curious. The minnow is at its last rodeo now, as I cast it out in to the choppy lake waters, my jigging hook attached as a symbiotic twin has taken control of all movements of the other. These same waters that gave it life, now will bring it to its certain death. I imagine this minnow wishing to get it all over with and just make it quick. 

On the other end, my pole has begun a dance. Reeling in slowly, jerking to find the balance between too loose and too taut for the line. The blue-tinted line is in high relief against the tree-lined shore behind, at its transition to water, the view of it flickers in sync with the boat’s cradling and rocking like a song that can’t find a tune. My eyes fixate on the tip of the pole. The key is putting it in position with the sky as its background to create a sharp contrast, so my eyes will see an immediate change. The change I am looking for is a sudden bend, felt ever so slightly through the pole to my hands. My response must be a simultaneous flick at my wrists, pulling up to ensure that my tempting minnow morsel delivers its bite.

Fishing requires patience. It demands a willingness to put in hours of time with no guarantee of reward. It’s for those who can somehow find optimism through repeated failed attempts. You better like the people that share your boat. Not that there is a lot of talking, but because when something is being reeled in, an unspoken synchronized union must be made to help with a common goal. Even if you are successful, you might not be able to keep it because it may be too small or too large, or maybe it’s the kind with too many bones no one wants for eating. There are merits to sharing in someone’s fish story, and best repeated by people who generally like you. 

The boat’s movement has lulled me into a state of feeling buzzed. It might be a combination of the bright sun gaining height behind me, the boat itself, or maybe the alcohol not yet worn off from last night. I’m a bit dizzy and my head bobs slightly, all the same. I have found myself tucked in a ball at the bow. The waves lap against the boat’s metal frame, adding to the cacophony in my mind, now echoing a smacking sound like someone is being struck on their behind incessantly. I like sitting here because I get to see out without an obstructed view. Turning my head to the right, I see my boat-mates concentrating on their efforts, turning to the left is a calming picturesque landscape. Straight ahead is my pole, and suddenly I see it’s bending hard. Awakened from my droning respite, I jerk my pole in one quick motion, the line stiffens and pulls. 

All attention is given to my gripping the handle, after giving the hard jerk response, and carefully reeling in what will surely be a gift. My pole continues to arch sharply down, the boat rocks, and my crew looks up to join in my efforts in spirit. Everyone is perched to offer help, when something is drawn to the surface. I am lost in the reeling, it seems to be taking too long. I feel the pull, but not the movement deep below. I shift my rod from left to right, trying to find where it’s going. This creature is either pulling the boat and taking me somewhere or perhaps we are cancelling each other out with a push-pull inertia-type result. I can feel my face contort with that all-too-common wrinkling in my forehead and pursing of my dry lips. I push this tension down to my arms to hold on tighter. 

All at once, there is a spring-like release. The once stretched line has come away, if it weren’t for my ball formation with feet wedged, I surely would have fallen back and not caught myself. I can now freely reel my line in, and whatever was on it, is surely no longer there. I am now wondering about that minnow. Is it still at the end, still being offered to whoever will have it? My cranking takes a new pace wanting to have an answer. I’m leaning forward now, gazing over the side into the water, dead white mayfly carcasses are sprinkled on its surface like leftover cereal in milk. The line comes to me, the yellow-hued jigging hook suddenly breaks the surface. 

The minnow is still attached, its deep green skin drips with the tears of its long journey. Only it knows what happened out there, out of my view. What I could feel through the pole was like starlight, it was not received in real-time but a memory travelled to me, my hands now feeling stiff from exertion. I can see that it has lost its tail, it is no longer twitching with that fight for survival. Is this the only thing I will have caught? I can’t let it go to waste. Alive or dead, this minnow is still good bait on my hook, surely something will be curious enough to bite. I carefully prepare for my next cast. I stand now, facing straight off the bow like a ship’s figurehead, the pole’s handle in my right hand, I’m ready to cast again. As I swing my arm back and forward, my eyes keep track of the minnow. As the line whizzes out above the tree-lined horizon in to blue sky, I see the minnow in contrast to it, leading the way. It finishes with a “ploop” disappearing into the water. I decide not to sit for this one. As I feel and see the line unravel like a loose curl of hair and find a sweet spot for my rod’s tip, my eyes pick out a flash of movement in the tall pine tree background. A bald eagle has taken flight just to my left, I turn slightly to see its silhouette glide out of my view. Thinking now about where this bird may be going, a click of my reel has pulled me back to my task at hand, I have begun to reel in my line one more time.~Paula

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